Monday, November 20, 2017
Following the symposium of last May, the General Council of the Comboni Missionaries programmed two events to close the “Roman” celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Institute: a press conference and a symposium. The press conference, held on November 14 at Vatican Radio in preparation for the symposium, was titled “Africa is not Fake News” and was an opportunity to debunk myths and prejudices concerning Africa. The symposium itself, titled “To Regenerate Africa with Africa,” was held on November 17 in the Aula Magna of the Urbaniana University and was centered on Africa in the days of Comboni but also on the socio-political and ecclesial situation of Africa today. The texts of the various talks will be published shortly. In the picture from left: Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse, Superior General of Comboni Missionaries, Dr. Filippo Di Giacomo, Priest and Journalist (moderator of the symposium), and Prof. Dr. Gianpaolo Romanato.

The 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Comboni Institute (June 1, 1867) was celebrated in Rome, Italy, with a number of events.

The May symposium was intended mainly for the Comboni Missionaries themselves and had as its purpose, not only to commemorate our origins, but also to continue the journey of regeneration by describing the new challenges that the mission offers us and the path towards the reconfiguration of our Institute.  However, there was a desire to give the 150th of our foundation a wider resonance especially on the academic level. Thus the second symposium came into being, held in the aula magna of the Urbaniana University. The university was chosen because of the many memories that tie it to Comboni and to his first missionaries.
The symposium was introduced by a press conference held a few days earlier. The symposium, with the evocative title of “Regenerating Africa with Africa,” was held on November 17 and was open to the Comboni Family, the members of male and female religious institutes in Rome, the university’s students, and friends of the Comboni Missionaries. The first two lectures had an historical character, while the third dealt with the present. First of all, the intention was to explore the African mission in Comboni’s days, and more particularly the “cooperation between Comboni and Propaganda Fide in view of reopening the Vicariate of Central Africa and its being entrusted to Comboni” (Fr. Fidel González) and “Africa and the Mission in the days of Comboni” (Prof. Giampaolo Romanato). The theme of the third conference, developed by the Congolese journalist Jean-Léonard Touadi, was “Africa Today: socio-political and ecclesial aspects. It was a very wide theme that Touadi developed most brilliantly and professionally by developing the current hot topics of the Continent.

The symposium was attended by about 200 people and closed the “Roman” celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Institute, an Institute, we can say with some pride, which has given and still gives its contribution to the evangelization of Africa.

Here below we publish the opening remarks by Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse, Superior General of the Comboni Missionaries.

Many thanks

Praise the Lord in his sanctuary, praise him in the majesty of the firmament.
Praise him for his wonderful works, praise him for his infinite greatness."
(From PS 150)

Dear brothers and sisters, dear participants at the symposium held to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Comboni Institute, the “Institute of the African Missions,” and thanks to all of you for being here to take part in this symposium and to celebrate with us.

A special word of thanks goes to the three speakers of this afternoon: The Dr. Prof. Fr. Fidel GonzálezFernández, mccj, Dr. Prof. Giampaolo Romanato and Dr. Prof. Jean-Léonard Touadi, who will speak to us.

A great vote of thanks to the Rector of the Pontifical Urbaniana University, Dr. Prof. Fr. Leonard Sileo, OFM. I would also like to thank our moderator, Fr. Filippo Di Giacomo. Thanks to Fr. Mariano Tibaldo and Fr. Venanzio Milani who worked on today’s program. Thanks also to Fr. Caudio Lurati and the members of the GC, Fr Rogelio Bustos Juárez and Bro. Alberto Lamana Cónsola, and to all who have contributed to organize today’s program.

We hold this symposium in a spirit of celebration of:
1. San Daniel Comboni, our Father and Founder;
2. The 150 years of life of our Institute;
3. Our continent, Africa and its sons and daughters.

1. We celebrate San Daniel Comboni

This is what Comboni said in Khartoum on May 11, 1873: “I am truly happy, dearest friends, to be back with you again after so many sad events and so many sighs and afflictions… I left my heart in your midst and, when I recovered, as God willed, my concerns and activities were always focused on you…I am resigned to this, in the hope that you will all help me to carry this burden with happiness and joy in the name of God.” (Writings 3156-3159)

Yes, let us celebrate San Daniel Comboni, a dedicated and generous missionary, who lived for Africa. Yes, let us celebrate his vision of “Regenerating Africa with Africa” and his charism, the gift of the Spirit and the fruit of his dedication. St. Daniel Comboni continues to live, through his inspiration and his prayers of intercession. After more than 136 years from his birth into heaven, St. Daniel Comboni is present through his charism lived in the lives of his sons and daughters and in the life of the Local Churches of Africa.

2. We celebrate the 150 years of life of the Institute

When we read attentively the life of our Institute and the life of our confreres who lived their mission with great generosity, we feel invited to celebrate and humbly rejoice for the miracle seen and lived in our missions thanks to the sons and daughters of Comboni who gave their entire lives – some even through a tragic death and martyrdom – to their beloved Africa and to the Africans.

Thanks to the help of the Church through the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, thanks to the people of God who has accepted us and thanks to the generosity of our cooperators, helpers and benefactors, the life of our Comboni Institute is a beautiful story of dedication, of consecration and of service to God and to God’s people in Africa, in America, in Asia and in Europe. Thanks to our sisters, the Comboni Missionary Sisters, the Secular Comboni Missionaries and the Comboni Lay Missionaries, for their cooperation, for their dedication and witness and for their incarnation and contextualization of the charism of St. Daniel Comboni. Today, thanks to the entire Comboni family and to all that moves around Comboni, we celebrate Comboni and his vision with a much richer and up to date vision. On the eve of our 150 years of life as disciples and apostles called to share faith, hope and charity with the joy of the Gospel in a community of brothers coming from the many nations of this one world, loved by God, Pope Francis told us:

“As Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus, you contribute with joy to the mission of the Church, witnessing to the charism of St. Daniel Comboni, which finds its defining focus in the merciful love of the Heart of Jesus for the defenseless. In this heart we find the fountain of that mercy that saves and gives hope. Therefore, as people consecrated to God for mission, you are called to imitate Jesus, humble and meek, in order to live your service with a humble heart, taking care of the most abandoned people in our time. Never cease to ask of the Sacred Heart meekness which, as a daughter of charity, is patient, all excuses, always hopes, supports all (1 Cor 13:4-7).”

3. We celebrate Africa, it sons and daughters

Thanks to the Holy Spirit who gives to his servants particular charisms.

Comboni was wedded to Africa and became the Africans’ servant, because he had a vision of faith affirming and confirming in truth that Africa, as poor and exploited as it is, has been regenerated many times and therefore cannot go backward.

Yes, this journey requires and demand trust and human commitment from the sons and daughters of Africa. Comboni loved the African mission.

St. Daniel Comboni had this trust and so did his sons and daughters. Comboni is happy when Africans do not beg for trust and appreciation from others, but rather commit personally to have confidence in Africa and, thanks to God’s help, commit to change Africa even if they are out of it. Because beloved Africa stays in one’s heart.

“Dear sons and daughters of the Church, Family of God in Africa, all of you men and women of good will in Africa and elsewhere, we share with you the strong conviction of this Synod. Africa is not powerless. Our destiny is still in our hands. All that it asks for is space to breathe and prosper. Africa is on the move and the Church is moving with it, giving it the light of the Gospel. The waters may be choppy, but with our gaze fixed on Christ the Lord (See Mt 14:28-32) we will reach securely the harbor of reconciliation, of justice and of peace. Africa, get up, pick up your mat and walk! (See John 5:8)” (From the Message to the People of God of the 2nd Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. #42).
Good Symposium and THANK YOU.
Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie, mccj
In the name of the General Council

Images of the symposium

Dr. Prof. Fr. Leonardo Sileo, OFM, Rector of the Pontifical Urbaniana University.

Dr. Prof. Fr. Fidel González Fernández, MCCJ.

Dr. Prof. Gianpaolo Romanato.

Dr. Prof. Jean-Léonard Touadi.

Fr. Mariano Tibaldo, MCCJ.

In the foreground, Fr. Claudio Lurati, Treasurer General of the Comboni Missionaries.

In the foreground, Fr. Rogelio
Bustos Juárez, MCCJ, general assistant.

In the center, Fr. Pietro Ciuciulla, MCCJ, general assistant.